TheCrockery

A Catholic perspective on the world and all the good things therein, especially books and food. Literature cum chocolate is the order of the day at The Crockery.

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Location: A Collegetown, Undisclosed Location, United States

No longer a graduate student, Teresa is now a professional know-it-all.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Decree on Ecumenism

Today, rather than writing an entry about Halloween, as I might have planned, I've decided to simply direct my readers to Unitatis Redintegratio, the Vatican II document on ecumenism. It is a rich document, both pastorally tender but also concerned with seeking truth. It should be required reading of everyone interested in Catholic-Protestant relations.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Test

This is a test of the emergency blogcasting system. Had this been an actual post from Teresa, it would have contained more entertaining material.

But just in case you've been starving from some words of wisdom from The Crockery, here's a book recommendation to tide you over until the next "real" blog entry. It's probably too late to read this book for Halloween --what with Halloween coming up this week and all-- but put it on your spooky reading list for next year, if you keep such a thing. It's entertaining, and very very Catholic.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Haunted by the Socially Awkward

Yesterday, my husband and I went to a local "haunted house." By "haunted house" I do not mean a residence said to be haunted by a ghost; I mean, rather, one of those Halloween attractions with mechanical monstors, sudden puffs of air, strobe lights, and people armed with chainsaws. We had fun. I was actually scared (I guess sudden noises do that to me) and my husband, though he was not nearly as startled as I was by people jumping out of corners and shrieking, was entertained by the sight of me being scared.

The scariest part of the experience was undoubtedly the dark maze in which one couldn't see anything and had to grope around for the door, hoping that the person one had just bumped into was one's actual spouse and not either a member of a different party or one of the workers. If you are at all frightened by the dark, it's pretty freaky.

The second scariest part of the experience was what I'll call being "Haunted by the Socially Awkward." This happened twice, when people in costumes approached me, saying nothing, DOING nothing, but simply following me. . . walking right beside me for a little way. It freaked me out as I tried to figure out what etiquette demanded in such a situation. Seeing as they were right there, it seemed I ought to acknowledge their presence, but how? Pretend to be scared? Talk to them? Run like heck? Or ought I just ignore them, pretending that I wasn't being creeped out by the fact that they were following me?

The first time, I said nothing, but kept eyeing the tall person with the mask warily. I'm sure he or she enjoyed the look of uncertainty in my eyes. The second time, I was being haunted by someone in a monk costume.* Somehow the fact that he had no mask (unlike the first Socially Awkward Haunting) made the situation even more awkward, as I could see his face. This time I muttered "Are you supposed to be a demon monk?" under my breath, as the situation seemed to call for some kind of action. If he heard me, he gave no response. I suspect that was his job: to be a silent scary presence. . . the presence of the Socially Awkward Moment.

* If I ever need proof that graduate school has turned me into a dork, I can find in the fact that, on the ride home, I pondered whether the ghostly monk costume was evidence of a residual anti-Catholicism in American culture.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Check it Out, Y'all!

I'm not in the habit of posting a series of links to other work, but hey, there's a first time for everything, right?

First up is another Amy Welborn post about music. This lists some new norms for liturgical music in the US. Some of them look promising.

Next, we have Pocket Chapel, because who DOESN'T want a home altar on her desktop? Especially if it's free! This is an interesting idea, actually, but whoever does the writing for this website appears to be unfamiliar with the English language. As a result, we have statements like this:

See it as a sign of god on your Computer, which remembers you, that we all are a part of a bigger thing.

Is it mean for me to point out things like that? Probably. As penance, I'm going to point my readers to this page and say only that I've actually had one of these candles, and they smell very good. So you just go ahead and ignore all the criticism regarding the product name and marketing concept.

Finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention this "Motivational Poster" contest. (Sorry, kids the contest is closed. But hey, you can still see what other people entered!) Some of the entries in the "humorous" division are quite funny. Warning: some of them are even meaner than I am. There's a distinct lack of charity towards those with different religious beliefs in some entries. I'm sure the creators would argue that the purpose of the humor is to point out the absurdities of their opponants position. Whatever. The use of humor of a weapon is too big of an issue for me to tackle today.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Halloween Reading (Inevitable Ghost Entry, Part IV)

Some of you may recall that last spring, my husband and I were scared out of our wits by The Demonologist, a book about the experiences of Catholic paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. That book sparked an interest in my part on Christian views of ghosts and hauntings, and, like the good blogger I am, I've shared my interest with my readers. Since the first Inevitable Ghost Entry, I've gone on to talk about Christian theories of ghosts and bizarre connections between human spirits and demonic possession. But all of my reading at that time was based on Catholic sources. At last, I have the means of correcting this one-sided research, for I have in my hands Roberts Liardon's Haunted Houses, Ghosts & Demons: What You Can Do About Them. At last, a book with some practical information on dealing with those darn ghosts!

I don't mean to mock this book, but it's so hard not to. First of all, there's the cover, complete with a picture of a haunted house outlined against the moon, complete with airborne bats. That is, I assume they are bats, but they could easily be seagulls. Seagulls, however, are always depicted above the water. The presence of these airborne unknowns against the moon, at night, indicates that they are bats. See how useful a knowledge of graphic convention is, kids?

Next, the back of the book proclaims, in large red letters:

THERE IS A WAR GOING ON!
YOU MAY NOT BE PART OF IT,
BUT, THE BATTLE IS RAGING
ALL AROUND US RIGHT NOW!
AND YOU'RE INVOLVED!

If you are at all like me, you may be wondering at is that you can be involved in the war without being part of it. Clearly, there is some subtle theological distinction here that I'm missing. I hope some of my readers can clarify the matter for me.

I'm also puzzled by one of the chapter titles: "Seven Steps to Demon Possession." I'm pretty certain that Roberts Liardon, the founder of Spirit and Life Bible College, did not intend this chapter as a "how to" guide. Nevertheless, that's what the chapter title seems to suggest. I can only hope that no one sues him for false advertising.

The most mysterious thing about this book, though, is that I don't remember ordering it. Really. I remember putting it on my wish list. I remember THINKING about buying it. I think I even remember thinking that this (October) was a good time of year to buy it, as I like to dig up spooky reading in preparation for Halloween. But I was very surprised to find it show up on my latest Amazon.com order, because I couldn't remember clicking the "Buy now" button. Most likely, my memory is at fault, but we shouldn't rule out the possibility that my new computer is possessed. It is, after all, a refurbished laptop, and I doubt that the refurbishing process includes an exorcism ritual.

Enough of that. I really don't want to mock Liardon's project itself, though I might have doubts about the packaging and the execution. I actually am interested in Christian explanations of the experience of haunting. Whatever causes it (whether it's psychological, physical, or supernatural), haunting is a real experience with a long tradition. I've known people who experienced it, though I have not experienced it myself. I'd like to have guidelines from the Christian tradition to help me understand what might be at work in the experience of haunting.

Sadly, though, it seems that there is very little serious work on the subject from a Christian perspective. Much as I enjoyed (and learned from) the Warrens' work, I can't take them completely seriously as investigators. Lorraine Warren claimed to be a medium, and though she viewed her gift of clairvoyance as a gift of the Holy Spirit -the gift of discernment- it's hard to square that with either modern science (which has shown no real support for psychic powers) or traditional Christian theology, which has viewed work as a medium as sinful.

Roberts Liardon's background and gifts are no more credible. According to the about the author page, "He was born again, baptized in the Holy Spirit, and called to the ministry at the age of eight, after being caught up to Heaven by Lord Jesus." At the time of publication, he "preaches and ministers under a powerful anointing of the Holy Spirit." I suspect, though, that he'd be quick to deny that Lorraine's gift of discernment came from that same Spirit. Put the two in a room together, and we might have duelling charisms. But that's a subject for another day.

What concerns me today is this: I'd like to find a good, well-written, well-researched book about hauntings and the supernatural from an orthodox Christian theological perspective. And thus far, I've not found such a thing: the closest I've come is a book on poltergeists by a Jesuit. And you know you can't trust a Jesuit. . . .

So here I am, still looking for the Great Christian Ghost Book. Should you encounter it, do please let me know. In the meantime, I think I'll enjoy Liardon's book, but do pray that I enjoy it in a charitable way.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

A Mortifying Question

If you get bored trying to wrap your head around the idea of "singing the Mass, rather than saying the Mass," here's something else to ponder. Ask yourself:

If I can’t resist something as inconsequential as a piece of chocolate, how am I going to be able to resist real temptation when it comes my way?

That's from Brian Pessaro's essay on corporal mortification, over at Godspy. Interesting essay. I'm sure this kind of thinking scares some people, in a "that's so unhealthy way."

I can tell you that it scares me in a "how can I be so self-indulgent?" way. Perhaps you all aren't quite the glutton I am, and so perhaps it doesn't mean that much to you, but such reminders of our need for this kind of simple self discipline are sobering to someone who came back from the last grocery store with pumpkin donuts, gourmet "chocolate truffle" coffee, and guacamole, all because it looked good. (Of course, that could just be a lesson on why the experts warn us never to go grocery shopping on an empty stomach, but for the purposes of this post we'll ignore that angle.) Maybe for a few days, this essay will strengthen my will, enabling me to resist an unnecessary late-night snack. But then I'll slip back to my usual ways. It happens all the time.

That, I think, is one of the things at the heart of this essay: the fact that discipline does us the most good when it is an actual part of our lives, not something picked up for a fad. We are to take up our cross daily, and daily rituals like Pessaro's cold shower are tools to help with that.

Tomorrow is Friday, a traditional day of penance. Many Christians will abstain from eating red meat tomorrow. Others will substitute some other form of abstinence. (I myself usually give up reading "fun" novels: only non-fiction or primary material from my time period is allowed.) But many more Christians will go about their usual schedule, either blissfully unaware of the observances traditionally attached to Fridays throughout the year, or under the impression that no one does that sort of thing anymore, and it isn't good for you, anyway.

What will you do?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

On Singing Hymns

As I mentioned in a previous post, Catholic blogs tend to be full of discussions about proper liturgical music. Usually, these discussions bore me, because regardless of what the discussers say, they usually come down to matters of taste rather than to theological questions. And as we all know, there's no disputing taste. Some of us truly do prefer the sound of "The Servant Song" to "Blest Be the Tie That Binds."

In any case, Amy Welborn has a recent post which says something actually interesting about the use of hymns in the liturgy. Essentially, she points out that hymns themselves are a concession, not the ideal model of liturgical music. A truly traditional Catholic Mass would be one in which the music sung by the congregation is all part of the Mass. One of the quotes Amy pulls out is worth repeating here:

Simply stated, the Church calls us to SING THE HOLY MASS, not sing AT Mass. This is done by singing the various chants that the Sacred Liturgy of the day gives us- especially the Entrance Antiphon, the Offeratory Antiphon, and the Holy Communion Antiphon. This is normally done by chanting the antiphon as a refrain, with psalm texts used as verses. This is the way the Graduale Romanum and the Graduale Simplex lay it out.

After describing the traditional mode of worhsip, Amy raises questions about how the use of hymnody became the norm for American parishes. It's worth reading, if only because it' s amusing to think that one sure way to get rid of the Haugen-Haas bashing would be to remove all hymns from the liturgy and return to the use of propers and graduals. In some ways, this suggestion is like the Catholic equivelent of the Protestant "Psalm-only" debates. (One of the differences, of course, is that no one on the Catholic side would actually claim that there are Scriptural principles forbidding the use of hymns in worship: the question is a matter of tradition and liturgical theory, not a matter of conscience.)

What is ironic about all of this was that, before I read this post, I was already planning to blog on the subject of "Top Ten Places Not to Sing Hymns," begining with an academic library. (Trust me, no one will thank you for the disruption, even if you are disrupting their work with holy song.) If the church in America goes in the direction that Amy points out, your local Catholic parish might become #1 on the list.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Discontented about the Dahlia

I know I haven't been blogging much lately. Blame the academic job market: my first materials have to go out in just about three weeks, and I'm still working on the materials. I predict that the trend of infrequent blogging will continue at least until the beginning of November, and maybe beyond that, as I wait to learn whether I'll be interviewed at this year's MLA convention.

But enough about that. What I really wanted to say was this: don't go see "Black Dahlia."

You may be a true crime buff who has read all the books about the Black Dahlia murder. You may have your own pet theory as to who killed Elizabeth Short and why. You may think that you've been waiting your whole life to see her story brought to the cinema.

If that's the case, though, you're going to have to keep waiting, because the film currently in the theaters is not really about Elizabeth Short's life, and it is only minimally about her death. It's really about a bunch of screwed-up people and their screwed-up relationships. It's violent, morally bankrupt, and psychologically improbable. The reason for the murder doesn't make sense even in an insane way.

The beginning of the movie was interesting, though I kept wondering when they were going to get to the stuff about the murder. Halfway through the movie, though, I had to fight with myself to keep from checking my watch. When we left the theater, I told LeopoldTulip that I thought "Snakes on a Plane" was the better film. At least with "Snakes," one had the impression that the "badness" was intentional. The director and/or writers of "Snakes" were probably quite happy to have people snicker at their dialogue, as long as said people were buying tickets. I suspect that the writers and director of "Black Dahlia" were hoping for an Oscar nomination. I'm sure they're disappointed with the film's reception. . . but perhaps not as disappointed as the viewers are with the film.